Chinese media applauded Monday reports that China killed around a dozen CIA intelligence assets in China.
The Chinese government dismantled CIA spy operations in China by killing or imprisoning around 20 intelligence sources from 2010 through 2012, reports The New York Times. An influential Chinese tabloid affiliated with state media said that if the story was true, it was a victory for China.
“If this article is telling the truth, we would like to applaud China’s anti-espionage activities. Not only was the CIA’s spy network dismantled, but Washington had no idea what happened and which part of the spy network had gone wrong,” the Global Times wrote in an editorial. “It can be taken as a sweeping victory.”
“Strike hard against spy traitors, protect the country’s security!” one Chinese netizen commented in response to The New York Times report.
“No matter how Americans see it, international law will affirm that China’s anti-espionage activities are just and legal, while the CIA’s spying is illegitimate,” the Global Times added.
Over the years, the U.S. has also uncovered several high-profile Chinese spies.
Larry Wu-tai Chin, a translator with the CIA, sold information to Beijing from 1952 to 1985. He committed suicide after he was convicted of 17 counts of espionage, reports the South China Morning Post. Gwo-Bao Min was stopped at an airport before he could depart for China carrying detailed information related to nuclear weaponry.
Moo Ko-Suen, a South Korean businessman who spied for China, attempted to buy U.S. military equipment — such as jet and helicopter engines, cruise missiles, and air-to-air missiles — for China. Candace Marie Claiborne, a former U.S. State Department official, has been indicted for failing to disclose highly-suspicious interactions with alleged Chinese agents which asked for sensitive information in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars.
Su Bin, a Chinese businessman, worked with two Chinese agents for years to steal valuable information on the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter and other U.S. weapons systems.
China should “show our gratitude and respect for his service to our country,” the Global Times, a Chinese tabloid, wrote in response. “On the secret battlefield without gunpowder, China needs special agents to gather secrets from the US.”
China is also believed to have hacked government databases and defense contractors in recent years. The stolen information is suspected to be behind certain Chinese military advancements, such as the J-20 and J-31 fighter jets, as well as Chinese drone technology. Despite Chinese espionage activities, China remains extremely sensitive to foreign espionage.
Spying “is a major security threat that we cannot afford to ignore,” the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Daily argued in a January report, “If a war were to break out tomorrow, intelligence would be our Achilles heel.”
Despite progress in the bilateral relationship, China and the U.S. remain competitors and, at times, rivals, indicating that espionage will continue to play a key role in U.S.-China relations.
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